Summer 2020 at Castleton

This summer, Castleton faculty are busily preparing to meet students in face-to-face instruction in the fall.  The faculty participation in these activities so far has been unprecedented.  Future posts will detail some of the steps faculty are taking to continue to offer students the high-value Castleton education.  All events are open to all Castleton faculty (full and part-time) and staff.

Online training:  All of Castleton’s faculty have been encouraged to take a course on How to Teach Online at Castleton.  This is a basic course that covers Castleton’s policies, pedagogy and matters such as accessibility. Many faculty members who have been teaching online in past semesters have already taken the course.

Advanced online training:  42 Castleton faculty members are currently enrolled in an advanced self-paced training course to support remote learning course design and use of the Canvas LMS. They are working in small groups with 7 faculty coaches who are serving as facilitators.  A new 4-week instance of the course begins in July with, at present, 2 more small groups planned.  Interested faculty are encouraged to sign up for the July course.

Weekly workshops:  We kicked off weekly workshops with a virtual workshop with Chris Hakala, Director of the Center for Excellence in Teaching, Learning, and Scholarship at Springfield College. Follow-up workshops have covered multi-modal course design and attending to the mental wellness of students and faculty.  The turnout has been huge with 50-75 faculty attending each one.  Future workshops include: content delivery, student interactivity, feedback and assessment in remote learning.  Workshops are held virtually on Wednesdays 1-3.  Additional workshop topics are in the planning stages.

Online resources:  We are curating a variety of online resources.  They will be found at this site, at the Remote Delivery Resources Canvas page for Castleton faculty, the Microsoft Teams site for Castleton faculty, and the comprehensive Calvin Coolidge Library LibGuides on Online Teaching that is part of the Teaching and Learning Resources.  Castleton has also just joined the Online Learning Consortium which offers a variety of resources and training opportunities.

August kickoff: We are currently planning an all-campus meeting on August 10 to kick-off final plans for the start of classes. Details TBA.

Online delivery standards committee:  A group of 12 faculty members are serving on a committee to recommend best practices and principles for remote delivery at Castleton, should it become necessary, and to guide our offering of online courses in the future.

Opening committees:  Personnel from throughout the university are serving on 16 committees to finalize plans to return to campus in the fall.

The Summer Support Team consists of Chris Boettcher, Director of the Castleton Center for Teaching and Learning; Gillian Galle, Associate Academic Dean; and Sarah Chambers, Coordinator of Instructional Technology.  The team is collaborating with various university and VSC committees including the Pathway to Graduation Project and the VSC Teaching and Learning Technologies Workgroup.

For inquiries or to sign up for the online training courses, please contact Chris Boettcher at Christopher.boettcher[at]

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Game Plan for the Transition Week

Concerning the big picture: my understanding is that we will be taking the next week to make the transition and then commence our in-person courses again, fully online, on Monday, March 23.

Here is the plan:

In short, we intend to have Canvas training/drop-in resources available 9-12, 1-4 every day next week.  Sessions will be held mainly in Stafford 159 (PC Lab), but we will use adjoining rooms, as necessary.

Monday Morning:  we suggest that you plan to meet in your departments, or as departments, to talk about a collective plan.  Assess what steps you think you can take and what kinds of specific online techniques or features you need to work on for continuation of instruction. This will vary by department, and we understand that there are special situations that we are only beginning to assess.  It would be helpful if you also take an inventory of available resources (e. g. who has laptops, where can you do work, etc…). I am told that we can locate a limited number of webcams for departments who wish to set up a way to make use of them.

We ask that department chairs communicate desired support in specific techniques/software or webcams to Sarah Chambers. Sarah and the Canvas support team will endeavor to offer specific training and help in those areas. We will publicize specific sessions as appropriate. Your department may wish to work together in a computer lab in your building, in which case we will make arrangements, as we can, for someone with some Canvas expertise to work with you at that location.

Here is the schedule:

Monday morning:  Programs/Departments should meet to assess need and game plan.

Monday 1-4:  Canvas help sessions focused mainly on “beginner skills” (e. g,. getting the course running, organizing information for students, working with discussion forums, assignments, and/or quizzes).   Meet in 159 Stafford and we will plan breakouts as appropriate.

Tuesday 9-12:  Sessions will be planned to meet department needs.  Expected topics:  Working with Zoom, using video files, storage on OneDrive.

Tuesday 1-4:  Canvas workshop.  Bring your laptop or work at a computer with support as helpful.

Wednesday 9-12: Sessions will be planned to meet department needs.

Wednesday 1-4:  Canvas workshop.  Bring your laptop or work at a computer with support as helpful.

Thursday morning:  We are hoping to coordinate a campus-wide test of our use of Canvas.  More details to follow.

Thursday 1-4:  Canvas workshop.  Bring your laptop or work at a computer with support as helpful.

 Friday 9-12. Sessions will be planned to meet department needs.

Friday 1-4:  Canvas workshop.  Bring your laptop or work at a computer with support as helpful.

Rest assured that there is a growing team that is organizing to help you and your department.  More details on that to follow.  For now, we look forward to seeing you at the sessions or in your departments next week.

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From the Canvas Coaches’ Corner… Copying Canvas Content #1 (3/27/2020)


You’ve survived the first week of offering a virtual educational experience! No matter what ups and downs you faced this week, you’ve made it to Friday and you deserve a pat on the back!

Now that we know we won’t be returning to face to face classes this semester, it’s time for us to start thinking ahead about how we’re going to maintain (and improve?) our virtual learning experiences through Canvas.

While there are many ways to approach this, I thought we’d start with answering one of the most frequently asked questions as of late: “Is there any way to put a copy of my Course A quiz/assignment/discussion board/etc into my Course B?” Absolutely!

Copying (Specific) Content in Canvas #1:

Step 1: Start by making sure you’re in the course you want to copy the content into (you should not be in the course you’re trying to copy from…)

Step 2: Scroll down and click on Settings to enter your course’s settings

Settings Link on Course Homepage

Settings Link on Course Homepage

Step 3: Click on “Import Course Content” in the menu on the right

Select "Select Specific Content"

Select “Select Specific Content”

Step 4: In the type of content drop down, select “Copy a Canvas Course”

Copy Canvas Course Link

Copy Canvas Course Link

This next part is subtle but important!

Step 5: Check the box that says “select specific content” and then click on “Import”

Select "Select Specific Content"

Select “Select Specific Content”

Step 6: Now click on the “Select Content” button that has appeared:

"Select Content" Button

“Select Content” Button

This will open a new window for you that looks like:

Select Content Window

Select Content Window

If you leave the arrow pointing to the right and then click the checkbox next to the heading (i.e. if you clicked on the checkbox next to Assignments) you will be selecting all of the Assignments that you have in the course you’re trying to copy from.

If you don’t want to copy all of the items in the section, click directly on the arrow. This causes the arrow to point down (See my Modules section in the image above) and it will list all the items in that section so that you can pick and choose the ones you want. For instance, if I only want to import my General Information module, not all 8 of my Modules, I would now click the checkbox next to General Information and ignore the rest.

Can you select specific items out of different sections? Like, could you select one quiz, two assignments and one discussion board? Absolutely! Just open each section by clicking on the arrow and then check the box for each item you want.

Step 7: When you’re done selecting your content/items, click on the “Select Content” button at the bottom right of the Select Content Window.

Finish Selecting Specific Content

Finish Selecting Specific Content

Step 8: Wait for your import to finish! Depending on how many items you’re trying to copy, it could take a few minutes. You can follow its progress in the Current Jobs list at the bottom of your screen as it goes from:


Current Job - Queued Indicator

Current Job – Queued Indicator

To Running:

Current Job - Running Indicator

Current Job – Running Indicator

To Completed:

Current Job - Completed Indicator

Current Job – Completed Indicator

Congratulations! You have finished importing content from that other course!

Step 9: Publish your imported content!

While you’ve successfully imported the selected pieces of content, they won’t automatically get published posted in your Modules or Assignment Groups or wherever you wanted them to appear. You will still need to go publish the imported content and then add it to the various locations you want it to appear in your Canvas course.

If you need any help with this, or have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us! The Canvas Crew and Canvas Champions remain available, able, and willing to help (via email, phone, or Zoom)!

Have a great weekend, you deserve it!

Your Canvas Champions,

Gillian, Chris, & Sarah

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From the Canvas Coaches’ Corner… Canvas Course Communications #2 (3/20/2020)

It’s been a busy week full of prep. It’s been wonderful to get to meet so many of you face to face (whether in person or on Zoom) as you have risen to the challenge of this situation – I’m awed and inspired by your willingness to try this new thing during this very uncertain time. I hope you are as proud of yourselves as we are of you.

Since you’ve been inundated with emails all week, I’m going to keep today’s tip brief. It’s a simple step, but it can up your communication game significantly. Last week I shared how to communicate with your students. I’d like to point out another neat feature of using Announcements in Canvas. Sure, you created the announcement and it got emailed to all of your students. What if you’d like them to see it more readily when they log into your Canvas course?

Canvas Course Communication Strategy #2:

Make your Announcements show up at the top of your Canvas course!

Step 1: Open your Canvas Course and scroll down until you see the “Settings” link.

Settings Link on Course Homepage

Settings Link on Course Homepage

Step 2: Make sure you’re in the “Course Details” Tab, then scroll all the way down the page until you see the “more options” link.

More Options Link

More Options Link

Step 3: The “more options” link becomes the “fewer options” link and immediately below it, you see a bunch of settings you can change about your Announcements!

Announcement Settings Options

Announcement Settings Options

  • There’s a checkbox that allows you to show recent announcements on your course home page!
  • Directly underneath it, you can decide how many of your most recent announcements you want to show!
  • Finally… remember how I said students can’t reply to Announcements? It turns out there’s a checkbox for that too!

Step 4: Select the settings you want, click on the “Update Course Details” button, and then when you go back to your course homepage…

Announcement at Top of Home Page

Announcement at Top of Home Page

…your announcement(s) now show up at the top of the page!

A few finals words as we head into next week and students start using the virtual learning environments you’ve been creating… Don’t panic if something doesn’t go as planned. We’re all going to hit some bumps along this path and that’s okay! This is a learning experience! The important part is that you don’t give up. Instead, use this as an opportunity to reconsider how you’re sharing class content with your students or how you’re assessing your students’ understanding of the topics you’re covering.

Don’t forget that you’ve already come so far (in just one week!) and accomplished so many great things that your students are going to appreciate.

If you have other questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact any of the Canvas Crew or Canvas Champions!

You’ve got this,
Your Canvas Champions,

Gillian, Chris, and Sarah

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Instructional Strategies to Maintain Continuity

Below are some instructional strategies that we have been hearing from keeping “ear to the ground” in national conversations.  As we make the move to virtual teaching, our practice will, inevitably, change.  Bearing in mind that we are not aiming for online but, rather, virtual learning, there will be some differences from our usual practices. The Canvas support team can hold a workshop session (in-person or Zoom) for you on any of these topics and point you to additional resources:

Reach out to your students:  if you haven’t done so, or if you did it last week, now would be a good time to send a reassuring email;  open a line of communication with your students letting them know that you are thinking about them and that you are working on the course.  One important part of online teaching is figuring out how to provide the kinds of care that we provide with in-person courses; it’s fundamental for student success, learning, and retention.  This blog post provides a good way to think about the importance of establishing care in your plan for continuity.

Consider cutting coverage:  You will not cover everything that you had planned to cover this term. As you cut, don’t just think about what content is most important.  Think about what will work best for you with the resources that you and your students now have.

Broaden your ideas about instructional materials:  You have the capacity to write content and create video lectures, but be aware that there are viable resources online that you can direct students to:  text resources to which you can link, YouTube videos, Films on Demand, and Open Educational Resources like Kahn Academy.

Set and communicate your expectations for student work.  Our students need structure and will no longer have the structure of classrooms.  They will also be overwhelmed with new procedures and requirements in 5 courses.  Be clear about your expectations for students’ daily work.  If something will take an hour to complete, tell them that. Be prepared to remind your students about expectations often.

Think about course community.  If you try something new for your courses, make it discussion forums. Give your students a chance to reconnect at the start of the course, and maybe even share what they are thinking about the situation.  Use forums to stimulate asynchronous discussion.

Rethink assignments:  Given student limitations, consider:  what is the most essential part that they need or that you want them to do?   Consider doing portions of the work for them, and letting them focus on other portions.  For instance – complete the lab or data collection for them, crunch the data, and let them focus on the analysis.

Consider moving to open-book for assessments. Students will (likely) have instructional materials out and available in the place where they are studying.  How might your assessments be affected by their presence? Rather than viewing this as a negative, see this as an opportunity to consider how you can build your assessment to embrace this situation.

Be transparent, especially about grading. Our students are very concerned about this; be clear about how they are being assessed.  If you haven’t tried assignment rubrics and are feeling comfortable with Canvas, now would be a good time to try to work with them. It goes without saying, but when in doubt be generous with them. By usual policy we are not to send grade information to students via email.

Above all, be kind and generous, with yourself, with your students and with each other.  We are in this together and we will get through it.  Stay with it!

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Considerations for Virtual Learning

We can do this. Let’s acknowledge that this is not a good situation, but we will work with each other and get through. The Canvas Support team will keep a centralized schedule and set of resources and links that we are building on this site. Bookmark it and sign up for an update as we add materials.

This is virtual education, not online education. Online education entails a set of assumptions, expectations, and pedagogies that won’t happen in most courses transitioned within a week.  Think basic: establish contact, provide basic instruction, and receive work from students.

Start where you are. Plan to use Canvas to communicate with students, receive assignments, and send/track grades. (Due to FERPA restrictions, we may not send grades via email.)

  • If you never used Canvas before, you are going to be taking big, but relatively small steps. We have published a guide for taking first steps with Canvas on this site for you.
  • Once you have made a basic plan, you can get started learning Canvas more comprehensively. Everyone has been enrolled in the self-paced VSC Quickstart Course and the Castleton Canvas Introduction to Faculty.  You can find them among your Canvas courses.
  • If you have been using Canvas and are ready to take some further steps, here are some resource guides: How to Be A Better Online Teacher (Chronicle of Higher Education); Creating Online Learning Experiences (Open Education Resource).

Be aware that there is robust and readable help on the Canvas help pages and you have many resources for help through Canvas. For most questions, there is also likely a YouTube video.

Meet your students where they are. They will be some combination of anxious, frustrated, disappointed, and scared.  Think about how your plan will interface with them. Gerry Volpe has been working with instructors of students with known accommodations.  We do expect that others who have not sought accommodations will feel a need to seek help from you. We are collecting specific resources on accommodations.

Be aware of student technological issues. Some students don’t have internet or very slow internet. It is reasonable to expect that almost all students will access the internet at least once the week, but don’t expect that their access will be robust for activities like Zooming or uploading larger videos.

We strongly encourage you to engage in asynchronous (rather than synchronous) teaching. Synchronous teaching, requiring all students to meet online at a specified time, may be a hardship for students who do not have access to technology on the scheduled day/time and/or have other responsibilities (e.g. taking care of children home from school).  Much better, though, to post lectures, reading, assignments, etc. on Canvas on, say, Sunday evening, and allow students to access your course site whenever it is convenient for them during the week. However, if you must hold a synchronous lesson, limit them to only one hour per week during your scheduled class time, and keep in mind that our students will be in different time zones (including international time zones). We should record the session to make it available, but we may not post student participation on a public site like YouTube.

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From the Canvas Coaches’ Corner… Canvas Course Communications #1 (3/13/2020)

Sure, you can send a message from Gradebook. But what are the other ways you can communicate with your class through Canvas?

Much like an escape plan in case of fire, the sooner you develop your communication strategy, share it with your students, and practice it, the better prepared you and your students will be as we make this switch to delivering a virtual learning experience. So don’t wait, try it today!

It’s also worth noting – many of us are used to sharing the minute details of assignments and announcements verbally in front of the class. Whether you’re trying to send a message to your class or giving them an assignment to complete, make sure you write down all those details in the description or in the message itself.

Canvas Course Communication Strategies:

1. You can create an Announcement!

How To Do It: Starting on the homepage of your Canvas course….

  • Click on the “New Announcement” button (it has a megaphone on it) on the rightmost menu on your screen [You can also use the “Announcements” link on the second leftmost menu, then click the green “+Announcement” button that will appear in the top right of your screen]
  • This opens a screen where you can enter a subject line for the announcement, a place to put the body of your message right below it, and defaults to sending it to everyone in your section of the course.
  • You can attach files, or utilize the additional options such as “delay posting” or “allow liking”
  • Make sure you click the “Save” button at the bottom of your screen in order to post it.

Pros: Announcements generate emails that are sent immediately to everyone in your class

Cons: Students cannot reply to the posted Announcement in your course and if you have enabled the “like” option you cannot see which of your students liked the post – you will only see the number of them that have done so.

2. You can create a Discussion Board!

How To Do It: Starting on the homepage of your Canvas course…

  • Click on the “Discussions” link in the second leftmost menu of your course.
  • Click the green “+Discussion” button that will appear in the top right of your screen.
  • This opens a screen where you can enter a descriptive title for the Discussion Board and Directions/Description for the discussion board.
  • This also gives you the option to:
    • Allow multiple threads in the discussion
    • Make the discussion a graded assignment
    • And more!
  • Make sure you click the “Save & Publish” button at the bottom of your screen to make the discussion board available to the students.

Pros: There are a lot of features!

Cons: There are a lot of features, but if you enable them all at once it can get pretty complicated pretty quickly.

3. You can send an email to your entire class (through Canvas)!

How To Do It: Starting on the homepage of your Canvas course (or on your Canvas Dashboard)…

  • Click on the “Inbox” button (it looks like a piece of paper being fed into a fax machine or a shredder…) on the leftmost menu on your screen.
  • This opens your Canvas Inbox where you can view messages students have sent you through Canvas. Looking at the middle of the top of the page there is a small button that has a pencil hovering over a piece of paper – It’s the compose button!
Composition Button

Composition Button

  • Clicking on the “Compose” button opens a window with a drop down menu that says “All Courses.” Select the course you want to email and it leaves you looking at a box like this:
Compose Message Window

Compose Message Window

  • If you click on the contacts list (the button to the far right with the vaguely humanoid silhouette on it) you can select “Students” as the group of individuals from the class that you want to, and the top choice on that list that appears is your entire (student) roster.

Pros: This leaves evidence of your communications in both your email inbox as well as on Canvas.

Cons: Attaching files to replies can be problematic (depending on whether you’re replying from the Canvas inbox or from your email browser)

Need additional information on how to set up one of these systems? Have other questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact any of the Canvas Crew or Canvas Champions (Gillian Galle, Chris Boettcher, and Sarah Chambers).

We’ll also have more information and tips to share with you soon, so stay tuned as we all navigate this new direction!

We’re better together,
Your Canvas Champions,

Gillian, Chris, and Sarah

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From the Canvas Coaches’ Corner… Gradebook Goodie #2 (3/6/2020)

Have you ever looked at your gradebook and wished that you could target all the students that matched a certain criteria? Perhaps you want to let all the students that earned below a certain grade on that test to come see you. Or maybe you want to remind the students who haven’t uploaded an assignment yet that the due date is coming. Then this tip is for you!

Gradebook Goodie #2: How to Send a Message to Students Matching a Criteria in Gradebook

  1. Scroll to the assignment heading in your gradebook that corresponds to the assignment you want to send a message about and left click on the three vertical dots next to the assignment name. For our example, I want to send a message about HW3:
Three Vertical Dots Next to Assignment Name

Three Vertical Dots Next to Assignment Name

  1. Select “Message Students Who” on the drop down menu that appears.
Assignment Drop Down Menu

Assignment Drop Down Menu

  1. In the window that pops up, click on “Haven’t submitted yet” to open the drop down menu to see all your choices
Assignment Message Window

Assignment Message Window

  1. Select that criteria that will target the students you want to message (Canvas will create a subject line that matches your choice or you can write your own), fill in the body of the message, and click “Send Message”

Et voilà! You have now sent an assignment reminder to students who haven’t uploaded their work yet or you have contacted all the students who need to be alerted about their grade on that assignment.

The soon to be implemented Aviso can also send alerts! In fact, it can send not one, but two kinds of alerts: automated alerts and faculty/staff-initiated alerts. For example, the “Fifth Week Progress Report” will be replaced with an automated Aviso alert in the fall, and because Aviso automatically syncs with the Canvas gradebook, there will be no need for faculty to complete an additional process for those Five-Week reports! Faculty will also have the option to create individual alerts or referrals when concerns about students arise. Faculty-initiated alerts will notify the Castleton Support Team immediately and later provide feedback to faculty about the status of the student and when the alert is closed.

Want to chat more about this feature (or other features) of gradebook? Have a completely different question? Just email Chris Boettcher (, Sarah Chambers (, or myself ( to schedule a one-on-one appointment.

Have you discovered a neat feature that you think others should know about? Please drop me a line and it will get featured in one of our future coaches’ corner emails!

Until next time,
Your champions,

Gillian, Chris, & Sarah

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From the Canvas Coaches’ Corner… Gradebook Goodie #1 (2/21/2020)

It’s that time of the semester when the student athletes come by to have their grade sheets signed off. Are you tired of scrolling the gradebook all the way to the right to find the Total column? It turns out, you can change that!

Gradebook Goodie #1: In order to move the Total column from the last column of your gradebook to the first column of your gradebook, take the following steps.

Step 1: Scroll all the way to the right of gradebook (one last time), left click on the three vertical dots next to the word “Total”,

Three vertical dots next to "Total"

Three vertical dots next to “Total”

Step 2: Select “move to front” on the drop down menu that appears.

Total Drop Down Menu

Total Drop Down Menu

Step 3: Reap the benefits of having the Total column as your first column in the gradebook!

What kinds of benefits? For one, now all you need to do is open the gradebook and look at the first column in order to see your students’ progress in your class. Better yet, all those course averages will update in real time in Aviso (our up and coming new advising system that is currently being piloted by several advisors) so that as an advisor you can see at a glance how your advisee is doing in his or her courses at this time!

Not using gradebook yet? Want to but aren’t quite sure where to start? Please don’t hesitate to reach out to Chris Boettcher, Sarah Chambers, or myself!

Until next time,
Your champions,
Gillian, Chris, & Sarah

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Taking Our Courses Virtual: Some First Steps for Beginners

We have set up a guided explanation of how to get started with Canvas for faculty members who have been making minimal use of Canvas so far. It is available in the menu above marked First Steps in Canvas.  Those pages detail how to set up a very basic site, and once you have done this confidently you will be ready to take any next steps you wish to take.

First of all, take a deep breath.  For folks who don’t use online tools regularly:  you can do this.  It will take patience and generosity and flexibility, both with our students and with ourselves.  We are in this together, and it will be OK!

Here is a good plantake a  first step and set up your Canvas site to cover basic continuation of instruction for the next two weeks.  These pages will guide you through.  As you work on it, you will see many further steps you might take.  Once you have the basic site set up, we suggest that you then come back and acquaint yourself with the broader Canvas system and its instructional tools.  We will have links to in-depth overviews of Canvas available soon.

To get started, we suggest five steps:


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